Like several other phrases, this phrase has also been coined by William Shakespeare. Jaques has spoken this famous phrase in Act-II, Scene-VII of the play, As You Like It. He says, “All the world’s a stage,/ And all the men and women merely players.” The meaning of this phrase is that this world is like a stage and all human beings are merely actors. In fact, this speech is a continuance of the idea given by Orlando earlier in the play.
Shakespeare draws attention of his readers towards a drama everyone lives and has to live throughout his life. He is really reducing the life of human beings to a performance, or an acting role that might look ridiculous. Simply he means that all human beings are players, and play their allotted roles in everyday lives. For instance, if somebody is a soldier now, he is playing the role Lord has allotted to him. Same is the case with other professionals. Even several roles are common such as the role of a young lover, a haughty middle-aged man, or a great golfer.
Whatever the reason, “All the world is a stage” is a line that is used in every sort of context. Oscar Wilde has put his spin on this phrase, declaring that, “the world is a stage, and the play is badly cast.” Allan Moore in his novel, V for Vendetta, has taken it to a completely new level by saying that, “all the world’s a stage, and everything else is vaudeville.” Now notice how people love to quote this phrase, because it sounds very clever, and they believe that this line has something that still resonates today. Though they do not refer to seven stages of a man as this idea has become archaic; however, the idea is merely a comparison of this world with a stage. Therefore, a politician can use it, addressing a rally, or a disappointed person can use it when expressing his depression, referring to his good or bad condition.
Jaques quotes this line from Act-II, Scene-VII of Shakespeare’s As You Like It as:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
( Act-II, Scene-VII, Lines 139-143)
The idea behind this phrase is fortune and fate. Jaques deploys a famous theatrical metaphor of seven stages of human life in this speech. He compares the world to a play, or a stage and all men and women are merely actors or players on this stage called the world. All the people enter into this world through different routes and exit on an different route. They enter into this stage when they are born and leave it when they die. During this entire life span, every person plays different parts or roles and these parts are known as seven stages, which are like different acts of a drama or play.
- Metaphor: World is compared to a stage.
- Tone: Depressing